Jean-Marie Penard has been living in Aigues-Mortes for several years and has opened a museum dedicated to Colorado trains, reproduced at 1/24th scale, to share his passion.
The museum houses 120 models of locomotives and rare trains.
It took Jean-Marie Penard nearly 10 years of work to build the 100 m2 set he had imagined for his trains. "I started as soon as I retired," explains this former hotelier who had once disembarked in the Camargue port with his boat, before deciding to go ashore and buy a house. "At that time I was already thinking of creating my museum. I found myself like a writer in front of a blank page... »
"I was going to look for pieces of rock in the Cévennes. I was looking for reddish rocks that look like those found in the Colorado landscape and I was bringing them back little by little to form the basis of the tour. »
A passion from childhood
At the age of 12, Jean-Marie Penard began making his first wooden trains.
And since then, his passion for railways has only grown: "I have always travelled a lot by train. Even now. It's almost philosophical! I consider the train to be powerful, comfortable and at the same time full of poetry," he explains. "I discovered my first 1/24th scale locomotive in a shop window in Paris as a teenager, the largest in model railroading. I instantly swore that one day I would buy this kind of equipment. »
Today the Museum has no less than 120 pieces, some of which are rare models because they are no longer manufactured or produced on another scale. Most of the acquisitions come from the USA, but Jean-Marie Penard also buys some at fairs and on the Internet: "Most of the sellers are professional dealers, but I also have some contacts with American manufacturers who still sometimes create some novelties. »
I built everything," he explains, "including a 7-metre replica of the famous bridge over the Kwai River (Thailand), immortalised on film by the filmmaker David Lean in 1957 in the war film of the same name, or that other wooden bridge which is 40 metres long and 2 metres high, similar to the structures created in the USA in the early days of the railways! »
Like a western tune
Passionate about trains, Jean-Marie Penard is almost as passionate about the westerns of yesteryear. It is therefore quite logical that he has also chosen to build a Far-West décor, with its station and outbuildings, its Sioux warriors attacking the stagecoach, its sheriff... Nothing is missing! Not even the water tank and the coal tank so that the steam locomotive can fill up.
A perfectly coherent staging that has been validated by people who have had the opportunity to travel to Colorado. This is not the case for Jean-Marie, who is all the more proud of his achievement since he has never set foot in the United States!
"It's been four years since I finished building the circuit but it's still in constant evolution. I'm already thinking about raising it up and building an extra track at height and increasing the number of trains," explains Jean-Marie Penard, who has found a choice ally and someone to pass the torch of this rolling business on to. "My son Théo has been working with me at the museum for a few years now. »
A pledge of continuation...
Colorado Trains Museum
11, Rue de la République
Tel. : 04 66 51 61 13.
Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator
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